Thematically, The Acharnians is the most inclusive of Aristophanes’ plays; in it audiences find his powerful wit and satire against militarism and war, his contempt for petty politicians and informers, his delight in earthy sex play, and his spirited spoofing of Euripides—qualities that make it the most personal of Aristophanes’ works. When Dicaeopolis speaks directly to the audience, he does so with the voice of Aristophanes, eloquently asserting his intellectual honesty and independence and declaring that he will always fight for the cause of peace and justice. Aristophanes directed the play and acted in it, taking the part of the protagonist.
Presented in 425 b.c.e., The Acharnians is the earliest surviving play of Aristophanes, who began his career as a dramatist in 427. The play is set in the sixth year of the Peloponnesian War (431-404 b.c.e.), which was fought by Athens and Sparta. The conflict had already inflicted grave hardship on Athens. Some Athenians apparently wished to pursue the war more aggressively to exact revenge on Sparta. The protagonist of The Acharnians, Dicaeopolis, takes a different approach and concludes a private peace treaty with the Spartans. Much of the play depicts the opposition to Dicaeopolis’s treaty and the way in which the hero thwarts his opponents and sets about enjoying the rewards of his private peace.
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